Hillel at Ithaca College is submitting a request to the Student Governance Council on Nov. 12 in an effort to prevent the college from scheduling college-related events on Jewish holidays.
The proposal was created by Hillel’s executive board after the college scheduled the Class of 2018 graduation on Shavuot — a Jewish harvest holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai — on May 19 and the All-Student Gathering on Simchat Torah — a major Jewish holiday in which most forms of work are prohibited — on Oct. 1, said Austin Reid, springboard innovation fellow for Hillel.
Senior Rachel Steinmetz, president of the Hillel student executive board, said multiple students in the Jewish community complained after being forced to choose between attending the All-Student Gathering and celebrating Simchat Torah, prompting the Hillel executive board to take action.
The bill includes a list of upcoming Jewish holidays to inform the college administration about in an attempt to prevent it from scheduling any more major events on days that coincide with Jewish holidays.
“We wanted to be able to go back to this bill and say, ‘You can’t have an event because we have a religious holiday and we got this bill passed,’” Steinmetz said.
Though the Office of the Registrar website states that students cannot be penalized and are legally excused from classes if there is a religious conflict, the policy does not prevent the college from scheduling any events on those days.
Currently, the only religious holiday that students at the college have off is Christmas, a Christian holiday. Occasionally, Hanukkah coincides with Christmas, but this is not always the case as the Hebrew calendar does not align with the Gregorian calendar used in the United States.
Freshman Arthur Bloomfield, a member of the Jewish community, said he feels that the college should do more to make the Jewish community feel included, especially for very religious Jewish people like him.
“I understand it’s hard to make things perfect for everyone, but I do believe there should be more awareness,” Bloomfield said. “Our voice deserves to be heard.”
Hierald Osorto, director of religious and spiritual life, was not involved in the creation of the proposal, but he said he hopes the proposal will be approved so the Jewish community can be more involved in campus events.
Osorto also discussed the proposal at the SGC meeting Nov. 5. He also discussed other scheduling conflicts with religious holidays including Ramadan, a Muslim holiday.
Reid said there are records from the 1980s in the Hillel archives that show that graduation sometimes fell on Jewish holidays. While the problem is not new, Reid said it is more of an issue now because there is such a significant Jewish community on campus.
According to Hillel International, the largest Jewish college–campus organization in the world, 16 percent of students at the college are Jewish, and that percentage has been increasing for several years. In Spring 2015, Hillel International estimated that 600 Jewish undergraduates were enrolled at the college. Now, the organization estimates there are 1,000 Jewish undergraduates.
Despite scheduling complications, Osorto said, the college does try to include everyone when planning events.
“The institution tries really hard to consider all the different needs of our students,” Osorto said.
Sophomore Jordan Stecker, communications chair of Hillel, said that approving this proposal would be a further step the college could take to acknowledge the members of its Jewish community by not asking them to choose their practices over important college events.
“I have no issue with IC recognizing the Jewish community,” Stecker said. “I just am hoping to be even further supported as a member of my community.”
Jordan Stecker is also the advertising sales manager for The Ithacan.